GOING OFF THE RAILS ON A CRAZY TRAIN

REDLINE2

THIS PICTURE ON THE CTA’S RED LINE WAS OBVIOUSLY TAKEN OVER THE SUMMER, AS THERE IS NO SEA OF THE NORTH FACE APPAREL. IT SEEMS AS THOUGH THE MORE CROWDED THE CARS GET DURING RUSH HOUR, THE MORE RIDERS DO STUPID THINGS ON THEIR COMMUTE HOME.

Hey there, Mr. Wrigleyville … there is such a thing as personal space. (Even if the train car is so packed that none of us can move.)

Did you really just pick your nose and lick your finger?

Wait … Don’t grab the pole now – other people have to touch it.

Again? You have to do it again? (And again, and again, and again …)

Yes, this was the entertainment I got for free on the CTA’s Red Line this morning – five inches from my face. Shudder.

For those of you who know me, you know what a champion I am for public transportation. I’ll admit it, I’m a little geeky about it. I actually look forward to getting on the train each morning at 7:30 a.m. – and love it even more at 6:00 p.m. I’m a stander, and I always choose the same spot against the wall, out of the way, perfect for people watching. (And plenty of space to tap my feet to Panda Bear’s “Comfy In Nautica,” anything off of “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs if I want to drown out the masses … Or, I can put on Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago” or Band of Horses and actually have some pretty zen moments between all the stops.)

No matter how many people are crammed into the car, it takes a lot for me to feel uncomfortable or overcrowded on the train. It’s just part of city life, I tell myself, and at $2.25 a trip, it’s worth it for my 15-stop ride.

But lately, I have seen a few things that have elevated my normal commute into a case study of humanity. Deep, huh?

(And no, I won’t stoop to try to analyze why crazy nose-picker did what he did this morning.)

• Last week, there was an issue with the Purple Line, so the trains were running the same route as the Red Line. (Confusing for some of you that don’t live in Chicago, I’m sure … but honestly not worth explaining in detail.) No big changes, I can assure you. Lucky if you had to take the Purple Line – you got an express trip home. Need the Red Line? Change at Belmont or Fullerton … crisis adverted. Needless to say, you would have thought a bomb had gone off in the subway, as so many were in hysterics about how the system was working. I finally realized what the problem was: people’s routines had been thrown off. I think so many are used to the planned-out moments of every day. You know, wake up, shower, feed the kids, walk the dog, get the train, go to work, get the train, go home, make dinner, clean the house, watch television, go to bed, and over and over again … But throw just a tiny little kink in that plan, and suddenly you’ve got mass chaos. Don’t worry folks, you’ll make it home for “Dancing With the Stars.” (Again shudder.)

• The North Face never needs to advertise on the Red Line. The dozens or so sporting their jackets, backpacks or hats that get on my car each morning are doing a mighty fine job for them. Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering what I have against The North Face, and for the record, nothing. As my photographer friend Christopher – who is sporting the company’s comfortable black jacket today – said, “they’re practical.” Yes, I’ll agree that for him, who has to get out in the elements to do his job sometimes, it may be necessary. So, he gets a pass. The issue I find hard to swallow is how homogenized everything and everyone becomes as the weather drops. When half the guys and girls are all in the same black jacket, there is a level of depression that comes along with it for me. Just because it is not as bright outside anymore doesn’t mean we’re all dead like the trees, right?

• When the recorded voice comes over the loudspeaker with “doors closing,” it means just that. The. Doors. Are. Closing. Twice here recently, I have watched two people ignore that fact and do really stupid things just to catch the train. (For the record, they come about every 3-5 minutes during rush hour, so no long wait in between.) The first, a young guy, threw his arm into the doorway as the doors were, ahem, closing. All I could see was his limb sticking through the doorway and the shocked look on his face outside as the train began to move. Another passenger and myself began frantically trying to pry the door open as the train inched along. Failing that, I dove for the handicap emergency button, causing the conductor to stop the train and the door to open. The other passenger trying to help and I collapsed with relief. The moron who was in such a hurry he almost lost his life, simply sauntered in smirking and sat down. (And no, there was not a “thank-you.”) Last week during all of the Purple/Red Line confusion, a lady crammed her way into an already-overpacked car just as the doors slammed shut. Only problem? Her bag did not make it with her. So, as the train moved along, she just kept talking about needing to get her bag out of the door. As we stopped for a minute on the above-ground tracks, I watched in amazement as she went to grab the handle that opens the doors in an emergency. Thankfully, about five of us commuters screamed “NO!” at the same time, which stopped her from sending several people splattering to the ground. Thirty-seconds later, we were at the Fullerton stop, the doors opened, her precious bag was free – and everyone was still alive.

It may be easy to say that in a perfect world, my daily travels would consist of idiot-free, The North Face-free, snot-free rides. But come on, this is reality.

Thank God I can turn on Belle & Sebastian, close my eyes, and make it all go away.

(Or at least remember why truly I love the CTA.)

REDLINE

HOME, SWEET, LAWRENCE STOP. IF I CAN SURVIVE THE SILLINESS PEOPLE BRING TO THE EVERY DAY COMMUTE, THIS IS THE SIGN I LOOK MOST FORWARD TO SEEING. JUST ONE BLOCK AWAY, AND I KNOW I WILL BE IN THE SAFE CONFINES OF MY APARTMENT – AND AWAY FROM THE CRAZINESS ON THE TRAIN.

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